No matter the choice, promotional products, which are always given without obligation, should be selected with the company’s goals and the campaign’s particular audience firmly in mind.
H. Ted Olson, president of SAAlnternational, says promotional products is a targeted medium that works well alone or in combination with mass media, which typically might include a combination of newspapers, consumer or trade publications, radio and sometimes even television.
A targeted medium is one that is directed toward a narrow preselected audience that has known, similar characteristics. The advertising, therefore, is not wasted on other audiences uninterested or unaffected by the advertiser and the messagc.
“Advertisers may spend half their promotion budget on television, newspapers, and other mass media,” Olson says. “But what most of them also do is identify segments of the market—such as heavy users or good prospects as opposed to non-users—-and approach them through targeted media such as promotional products and direct mail”
The ability to target a specific audience is one of the strongest assets of promotional products. And sometimes these audiences are right on the advertiser’s payroll. Colonial Life and Accident Insurance Company, for example, looked to its sales force for extra effort during a traditionally slow period for new business. To motivate sales personnel, the Columbia, SC., insurer launched a sales contest employing specialties.
The “Honey of a Deal” contest offered $1,000 cash to the family of the agent who produced the most premium income during the nine-week contest period. The prize was to be spent on a second honeymoon, and the contest began, appropriately, on Valentine’s Day. For runners-up, there were less extravagant prizes, including bicycles built for two, luggage and $100 for a night on the town.
Incentives alone, however, are not sufficient to guarantee results in sales contests. There must be continuous reminders and prompting, particularly in contests that run several weeks. That is where promotional products come in. Colonial’s contest was promoted by periodically distributing several specialties with the contest logo or name. These included heart-shaped key tags, pot holders, refrigerator magnets and a compressed sponge in the shape of a dollar bill. Accompanying fliers containing romantic poetry reinforced the contest and the possibility or winning the “Honey-Moon” Grand Prize.
Note that the specialties were items to be used in the home. This ensured that spouses, who would share in the prize, would be reminded of the competition and, in turn, would remind their mates to get out there and sell.
The result of the contest was a marked 30 percent increase in sales and the breaking of 64 production records. Henry Moore, vice president of Dixie Specialty Company in Columbia, says his firm developed the promotion not only to motivate Colonial’s sales staff but also to recruit the support of their families.
“This was such a successful contest that they ran a second contest a few years later called ‘Honey of a Deal II” Moore says. “This basically knocked the lid off of sales for them.”
How useful an item is or isn’t can sometimes determine the success or failure of a promotional products campaign. The advertiser has to decide what items are likely to be used and appreciated by the target audience. For example, is a coffee cup going to be used very often by a salesperson or repairman who works outside of the office much of the day? So whether it’s a cup, key chain or desk clock, the advertiser and distributor/counselor have to really determine the usefulness of the promotional products to ensure the success of the campaign.
Another effective use of promotional products is incorporating it into a mass media campaign or tying it into an established advertising slogan.
Pan-American Life Insurance Company in New Orleans accomplish this with a campaign in South and Central America that included imprinted, plastic battery testers the size of a band aid. Chosen because batteries are supposedly used more extensively in Latin America than in the United States, the battery tester helped generate $560,000 in new premium income.
The specialty package included a letter to policyholders to introduce the theme “Your insurance policy with Pan-American Life lights the happiness of your family – allow us to help you keep it updated.”
This laid the foundation for a sales representative to make an appointment where the policyholder would receive a folder headlined in Spanish, “Both batteries and life insurance policies lose strength in time.” The presentation folder allowed the agent the opportunity to suggest a review of the policyholder’s coverage, after which the client could check the strength of the idle batteries with the tester.
“This was very well received in South and Central America because the people there have a different attitude than we do about wasting things,” says Jack Arena of Arena Advertising, Pan-American Life’s promotional products distributor/counselor. “This battery tester was a godsend to them because they don’t normally throw a battery away unless it’s absolutely drained. As for the agents, the items were excellent in serving as a door opener, a business card and as a remembrance.”
Although brokers can gain some recognition by randomly distributing the specialties, the most effective use of the medium is through beginning-to-end planning, as the Pan American and Colonial promotions illustrate.
SAAlnternational recommends a series of planning elements:
1. Defining a specific objective.
2. Identifying a market.
3. Creating a central theme for the promotion.
4. Developing a message to support the theme.
5. Creating a feasible distribution plan.
6. Selecting all appropriate promotional product, preferably one that bears a natural relationship to the company’s product, service, name or theme.
One campaign that practically covered all the bases involved Dodge, Warren and Peters (DWP) Insurancc Services Inc. This Torrance, Calif., agency enlisted the aid of promotional products to support its mass-media advertising for new clients. As a secondary goal, the insurance company wanted to publish the opening of a branch location.
The agency’s promotional products counselor, ThomasJ. Collins of Coffins and Associates in Cerritos, Calif., says the three-month campaign focused first on existing clients who had referred new business to the agency in the past. To reach that targeted group, a series of promotional products were distributed.
The first item delivered was a $60 walnut desk set, inscribed with the recipient’s name and the agency’s logo, which depicted a lone California pine on the Monterey Peninsula. Also on the desk set was the agency’s logo “One of a Kind,” which appeared throughout the company’s advertising campaign for promotional products and mass media.
“We sent them the walnut desk sets with a letter reminding them of their old Boy Scout days when they learned that no two trees were alike,: Collins says. “So, in fact no two pieces of wood were alike. The desk sets were all one of a kind. . . and so were the customers.
The second target audience included existing customers who had not referred new business to the agency’s casualty, bonding and life insurance services. This consisted of in-person calls by DWP account executives to remind clients of the agency’s dedication and capability. Distributed at this meeting were gold pocket telephone Indexes, displaying a message that the account executive wanted to be “One of a Kind” and be as near as the phone. Each client who referred a new customer after this visit later received an executive knife along with a personal thank you from the agent.
To further support the campaign, promotional products were distributed to DWP’s account agents and office personnel along with the presentation of special awards for achievement. The campaign ended with the agency recording $330,000 in sales for the quarter, a 47 percent increase over anticipated sales during this period.
Quality promotional items, such as DWP’s desk sets, can be used for a number of years, giving the advertiser exposure day-after-day and year-after-year. The desk sets illustrate how promotional products can continue to produce results long after distribution. The medium, when used with creativity and specific objectives, can motivate its audience into immediate action without wasted circulation and added costs. It’s this type of long-term “productivity” that’s difficult to find in mass media.
This article was written by Bill Robbins, a north Texas freelance writer specializing in marketing topics.